Sharks

What's behind the Sharks' defensive turnaround?

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USATSI

What's behind the Sharks' defensive turnaround?

Hours before a Super Bowl featuring very little in the way of defense, the Sharks turned in one of their best defensive efforts of the season.

The 26 total shots allowed against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday were tied for the seventh-fewest of San Jose's season, and it capped off a streak of three consecutive games allowing just one five-on-five goal. It's surely no surprise the Sharks have picked up points in all three of those games, and won the last two. 

They surely welcome the development. We've spilled plenty of pixels on how bad the Sharks have been defensiely since the start of December, and the last three games represent a bit of a turnaround. 

Over the last three games, they've allowed a lower rate of five-on-five shot attempts (4.88 fewer per 60 minutes), shots (2.19 fewer), and scoring chances (1.78 fewer) than they did in the previous 26 (since Dec. 1), according to Natural Stat Trick. That's across-the-board improvement, but is not necessarily sizeable enough to totally explain their recent stinginess. 

It helps, then, that the Sharks have not only given up fewer looks at the net, their goaltenders have stopped a far greater share of those looks. 

In the prior 26 games, Martin Jones and Aaron Dell collectively posted a .907 five-on-five save percentage. In the last three, that's up to .961. 

The duo was especially good when challenged most. They also combined for a .972 save percentage on five-on-five scoring chances, and a .963 save percentage on five-on-five high-danger scoring chances against Detroit, Columbus, and Carolina. From Dec.1 until Tuesday, Jones and Dell combined for a .918 save percentage on scoring chances, and an .849 save percentage on high-danger chances. 

While the Sharks netminders have undoubtedly benefited from facing fewer shots and dangerous chances, it would be far too simple to say the goaltending is better solely because of the defense, or vice versa. The improvements are likely symbiotic, and sustaining one another.

Three games isn't a big enough sample to say San Jose truly returned to its early-season defensive form. But, with five of the next six games against divisional opponents, and all but three of the remaining 31 against the Western Conference, the Sharks are improving defensively and in net at the right time. 

If they can sustain it, their hold on a playoff spot won't feel nearly as tenuous. 

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

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USATSI

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS -- Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist, sending the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the slumping St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

Joonas Donskoi also scored and Martin Jones made 30 saves for San Jose, which has won five of its last six games.

Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko had the goals for the Blues, who have lost a season-high four straight.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in the second.

San Jose took a 1-0 lead when Couture knocked in a loose puck at 6:35. Boedker fired in a shot from the point that goalie Carter Hutton blocked but couldn't corral. Couture was on the spot and scored his 24th of the season.

St. Louis answered at 8:23 when Barbashev scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Jones' arm.

Donskoi beat Hutton on a wrist shot from the left circle at 12:05. Couture assisted on Donskoi's first goal in 17 games.

Boedker gave San Jose a 3-1 lead at 15:54 when he scored from the left side of the net. Boedker has five goals in his last four games.

Tarasenko cut the margin to 3-2 on a power play when he fired in the rebound of a shot by Vince Dunn at 19:36 for his 24th of the season. Tarasenko has 10 points in his last nine games (four goals, six assists) against the Sharks.

San Jose's Brent Burns prevented a goal with less than five minutes left. During a scramble in front of the net, the puck hit the post and was sliding along the goal line when Burns knocked it out.

This was the first meeting between St. Louis and San Jose this season. The Blues swept the three-game season series last year, outscoring the Sharks 11-3 overall, and had won four straight against the Sharks.

Hutton made his second start in the last five games and stopped 20 shots. Previously against the Sharks, he was 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in five career starts.

NOTES: The Sharks acquired C Eric Fehr from Toronto for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft. ... Blues C Vladimir Sobotka was out of the lineup with an illness. It was the first game he has missed this season. ... The Blues have recalled forward Sammy Blais from the AHL for the fourth time this season. Blais, who leads the San Antonio Rampage with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), last played for St. Louis on Dec. 16, when he got hurt against Winnipeg. ... San Jose forward Tomas Hertl missed another game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Blues: Host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

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AP

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.